Posts Tagged ‘agreement’

Pronoun/Antecedent Agreement Enters Political Arena

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

 

You have probably seen the recent political flak accusing President Obama of saying something to the effect that, if a person has a business, someone else built it. Charles Krauthammer began his July 21 column in The Birmingham News with this quote from Obama's speech:

If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made it happen.

That quote by itself  would bother most people, whatever their political preferences. However, Krauthammer did not quote the first sentence of Obama's paragraph, which was, "Somebody invested in roads and bridges." Common sense would suggest Obama was referring to ROADS AND BRIDGES, which support businesses, as having been built by someone else.

Although Obama was speakiing out loud (which might let him off the hook in anything but a political campaign), a more careful choice of pronouns could have saved him from Krauthammer's criticism. All Obama needed to do was use the word THOSE (plural, to refer to the ROADS and BRIDGES) instead of THAT and IT (singular). He should have said this:

Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business, you didn't build those. Somebody else made those happen.

Whenever you choose a pronoun, make sure it agrees with the noun it refers back to–especially if you are running for office.

 

 


The rigors isn’t??

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

Grammar Glitch returns once more to subject/verb agreement.  Here is a sentence that appeared in an article about the recent Secret Service scandal:

The agency enjoys vaunted prestige in American popular culture, but the rigors of a protective detail–jet-setting the globe at a moment's notice to protect a dignitary, being on-call around the clock–isn't for everyone.

 

Whoops! The subject of the second part of this sentence (after BUT) is RIGORS, which is plural.  No matter how much wording appears between the dashes, the verb for that part of the sentence is ISN'T, which is singular.  It should be AREN'T to go with RIGORS.

NOTE: The phrase ON CALL is written as two separate words that are not hyphenated like JET-SETTING.

The sentence should read this way:

The agency enjoys vaunted prestige in American popular culture, but the rigors of a protective detail–jet-setting the globe at a moment's notice to protect a dignitary, being on call around the clock–aren't for everyone.

 

  A note of welcome to those who participated in my Advanced Business Writing workshops in Troy, Mobile, and Tuscumbia the past two weeks. Note the usage of hyphens and dashes in the example sentence above. We covered this in the workshop.

 

 

  

 

 


Difficulties was? Another agreement glitch.

Monday, May 7th, 2012

Here is a sentence I came across in an article about the attempted U.N. mission in Syria:

The difficulties of the team's mission was clear Wednesday during its visit to the suburb of Arbeen, just northeast of Damascus.

 

The subject of this sentence is DIFFICULTIES (plural), not MISSION (singular). Therefore, the verb should be WERE (plural), not WAS (singular). The sentence should read this way:

The difficulties of the team's mission were clear Wednesday during its visit to the suburb of Arbeen, just northeast of Damascus.


Medical Ads Mess Up Agreement

Friday, May 4th, 2012

Two medical advertisements caught my eye this week because they did not use proper subject/verb agreement.  Take a look at the first one at right.

YOU is one person.  SOMEONE is also considered singular.  They are connected by OR.  Therefore, the verb should be IS. The caption should read this way:

If you or someone you know is having the following problems:

Here is the second ad statement:

The subject verb combination must be either SUFFERERS SAY (plural) or SUFFERER SAYS (singular). In this case, the rest of the statement refers to HER and HER FOOT AND LEG PAIN, so we need the singular version. This ad statement should read as follows:

"Former Peripheral Neuropathy Sufferer Says FREE REPORT Showed Her How to End Her Foot and Leg Pain Naturally and Quickly."


IN A MANNER THAT ALLOW–Subject/verb agreement again!

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

The Jefferson County, Alabama, tale of financial woe continues, and the grammar in one auditor's letter needs an overhaul as well.  Take a look at this quoted portion of a sentence regarding the need for improvement in the county's financial controls:

"people, processes or systems were not operating in a manner that allow the Commission to prepare financial statements in accordance with U. S. generally accepted accounting principles."

Whoops! The subject of ALLOW is not PEOPLE, PROCESSES OR SYSTEMS (plural), it is MANNER (singular). Therefore, the verb should be ALLOW (singular) except that the first part of the quotation uses WERE, which is past tense, so the verb probably should be changed to WOULD ALLOW.

The auditor does not use ellipsis correctly either. His quote does not begin at the beginning of a sentence. (This is clear because the quotation begins with a lower case letter.) Therefore, he should have placed an ellipsis (three dots) at the beginning of the quotation.

Finally, I think this quotation would read more smoothly if the words GENERALLY ACCEPTED came before U.S.

Here is my suggested revision for this sentence:

"…people, processes or systems were not operating in a manner that would allow the Commission to prepare financial statements in accordance with generally accepted U. S. accounting principles."

 

NOTE: Would you like to learn more about effective proofreading techniques like the ones described above? Check the calendar at www.ruthbeaumontcook.com and sign up for my open enrollment class on Grammar and Proofreading.  Auburn University Montgomery is offering it on April 27.


The S cannot go on BOTH the subject and the verb. Agreement again!

Monday, February 13th, 2012

This was the lead sentence for a recent front page article in One Voice, the newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Birmingham in Alabama:

Divisions among  Christians, including on moral issues, weakens their credibility and their ability to respond to the spiritual yearning of many men and women today, Pope Benedict XVI said.

Whoops! Although I think this sentence expresses a good point about today's "gridlock thinking," the grammar is not correct. DIVISIONS (with an S) is plural.  (The basic thought is DIVISIONS AMONG CHRISTIANS WEAKEN THEIR CREDIBILITY….) Therefore, DIVISIONS should take a plural verb, which would be WEAKEN (without an S). The sentence should read this way:

 

Divisions among   Christians  , including on moral issues, weaken their credibility and their ability to respond to the spiritual yearning of many men and women today, Pope Benedict XVI said.

 

 Apparently the headline creator for this newspaper has a better grasp of grammar because the headline uses the correct subject/verb agreement.  It reads this way:

Christian Divisions, Including on Morality, Weaken Witness, Pope Says

 

PLEASE NOTE: My thanks to Ilene (See her comment below.) who spotted my error in this post.  I have made the appropriate correction above.

 


Sixty percent of the water COME or COMES in?

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

 

I have not done a blog post on subject/verb agreement in a while. That was a good thing, but a recent article about Jefferson County's "inherited sewer pipe" problems contained a sentence that brought the agreement issue back to the front page of The Birmingham News. Here is the sentence that caught my eye:

John S. Young, the court-appointed receiver, testified during a bankruptcy hearing last month, that 60 percent of the water flowing through county sewer pipes to the treatment plants come in through broken joints, leaky manhole covers and other flaws.

Whoops! The subject for the verb COME is "60 PERCENT OF THE WATER." This is what I call a "lump sum" subject.  We write that 60 percent of the bottles (countable) on the shelf have (plural) gold labels, but we write that 60 percent of the water (not countable) in the lake comes (singular) from Patton Creek.

We don't think of WATER as something that can be counted and made plural. We would not say WATER COME THROUGH BROKEN JOINTS.  Therefore, the verb should be COMES.

I agree with the commas before and after THE COURT-APPOINTED RECEIVER because they set off something that renames JOHN S. YOUNG. However, I would not put a comma between MONTH and THAT. A that clause should not be set off from the rest of the sentence.

I would edit the sentence to read this way:

John S. Young, the court-appointed receiver, testified during a bankruptcy hearing last month that 60 percent of the water flowing through county sewer pipes to the treatment plants comes in through broken joints, leaky manhole covers and other flaws.

Let's hope Jefferson County, Alabama, will find the means to solve its longstanding sewer nightmare in the New Year of 2012.

I hope those of my readers who are Christians had a very Merry Christmas, and I hope the holiday season has been enjoyable for everyone. I did not intend to take such a long break from Grammar Glitch Central, but an unexpected and nasty case of strep throat kept me from keeping up as I would have liked. Now, hopefully, things are back to normal!


Poor headline hisses like a snake!

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Here is a headline that appeared not long ago in The Washington Post:

 

 

Whoops! It is not "legal" to put an S on a plural subject and then put another S on a singular verb.  One or the other will do.  In this headline, PANELISTS (plural) is the subject.  Therefore, the verb should be OK (plural), not OKs (singular). The headline should read this way:

GOP panelists OK subpoenas in Solyndra case


Inserted phrase should not affect subject/verb relationship.

Friday, November 18th, 2011

It is good news that Honda has just announced an expansion of capacity at its Alabama auto plant.  The plant, located in Lincoln (near the Talladega Superspeedway), is set to become the highest-volume automaker in the state, building more than 300,000 cars a year.

One sentence in the article about this (front page of the Business section in The Birmingham News on Sunday, November 13) has a subject/verb agreement problem:

Gov. Robert Bentley, along with other state and local leaders, are expected to attend a special ceremony Monday at the $1.5 billion, 4,000-worker Lincoln plant.

Whoops! The subject of this sentence is GOV. ROBERT BENTLEY, so the verb should be IS (singular).  Reporter Dawn Kent inserted the phrase ALONG WITH OTHER STATE AND LOCAL LEADERS between BENTLEY and the verb, which is fine.  However, that inserted phrase is not part of the subject and does not affect the relationship between BENTLEY and IS. It does not create a compound subject.  The sentence should read as follows:

Gov. Robert Bentley, along with other state and local leaders, is expected to attend a special ceremony Monday at the $1.5 billion, 4,000-worker Lincoln plant.

 

 


Snack bags boosts = Whoops!

Monday, November 14th, 2011

The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well, and it pops up in amusing places.  A company called Gamer Food is now offering snacks to boost your energy for game playing. Who knew sitting at a console could burn enough calories to require an energy snack!

The announcement about these snacks in the Tech section of The Birmingham News this morning contained this sentence:

Gamer Food has released snack bags they say boosts your energy for game playing.

Whoops! The word BAGS is plural, and the word BOOSTS, which refers back to the BAGS, is singular.  That won't work because the subject and verb must agree.  It should be: The BAGS BOOST.  Putting THEY SAY in between does not change that relationship. The sentence should read as follows:

Gamer Food has released snack bags they say boost your energy for game playing.

 Anyone out there have a study on how many calories a gamer burns per hour? I have no idea if these snacks (not the bags) boost energy in general, but they come in three flavors–Seeds of Victory, Nuts of Destruction, and Cashews for Chaos!